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One Clear Message From The Mess That Is Italian Politics

Beppe Grillo's protest movement was the winner in Italy's election that signals a failure of an entire political class.

Beppe Grillo at a rally
Beppe Grillo at a rally
Mario Calabresi

TURIN - During these elections, all that's wrong with Italian politics in the last 20 years has finally caught up to us. The government’s relationship -- and lack of communication -- with the Italian people has led to an unprecedented height of pure electoral protest.

What's left, after Monday night's results, is a Parliament in which no alliance is capable of forming a majority necessary to rule.

One quarter of the voters chose Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement (M5S), which led an open rebellion of the citizens against both the "caste" priveleges of the political system, and the cuts and sacrifices the rest of the people were forced to make. Though the center-left coalition of Pierluigi Bersani finished first, followed by a resurgent Silvio Berlusconi, it is Grillo and his followers who are the only real winners of this election.

Italy expressed all of its collective malaise during this campaign, as the people suffering through the economic crisis -- the unemployed and working poor, those who feel overtaxed and others pondering emigration- - found new platforms for their voices to be heard.

The results of the ballot boxes show how badly both the government and its parties underestimated the social impact of the austerity measures. A lack of sensitivity and a perceived sense of distance from the politicians came across to the people, which ripened public anger in the face of demands for ever more sacrifices.

Monti’s decision to participate in the election, and the opposition of both majority parties to the policies of his government, didn’t give a meaning to the sacrifices the people had made, which are in fact necessary for Italy's economy to recover.

So much so that quickly, the country has chosen to discard the one who arrived as the anchor to Europe, the path to recovering credibility, the voice to make Italy heard again at the table of world affairs. And yet, Prime Minister Monti"s decisions cannot be forgotten: it is only thanks to the measures that he implemented that calamity was averted. And yes, from today, Italy has returned to a state of danger and an alarm bell of instability for all. (Stock markets across Europe tumbled early Tuesday on news of the Italian elections results)

Confronting the despair of the country was Beppe Grillo, who let every type of protest and source of rage be heard. Meanwhile, Berlusconi, was the most capable at intercepting the revolt against taxes and fiscal controls. Bersani relied too much on the results of the primaries, and subsequently lost the current that would have swept him to the parliamentary doors of the Palazzo Chigi without much effort.

End to obscurity

As the results of the elections are inconclusive, there is talk of a new election after the approval of a new electoral law, a prospective that seems both dramatic and unrealistic. In a system that is sinking fast into chaos, putting the pieces back into place will be a complicated and difficult effort. It is a task that requires much courage, as well as a spirit of sacrifice, both qualities lacking in Italian politics today.

To think that President Giorgio Napolitano has been insisting for years for a reform of the voting system, asking that the relationship between voters and their elected officials be re-established so that Italians might choose their own representatives and not be called upon only to ratify the choices of the parties. However, the short-sightedness of those who thought they had victory in hand prevailed.

Imagine now if the first act of this new Parliament was to agree on how to choose a new electoral law. Suspicion would arise immediately from the Italian people seeing a last, completely desperate move by the parties to save themselves. The revolt would rise again, this time even stronger.

Instead, there needs to be steps and decisions that are clear and courageous. Parliament needs to see possible meeting points in order to give urgent answers to its people, without yet another incomprehensible round of negotiations.

After this election, one thing is certain: every political step must be made with utter clarity, and with the objective of responding to the needs of the people. This new Parliament must find points of convergence, both among the traditional parties as well as with the new M5S members of Grillo's movement, who now exhibit their political inexperience and their purity as points of pride. They should be treated as a resource, not an enemy. Just like all the others, they represent the Italian people.

When politics is noble, it looks for solutions; and when it is efficient, it finds them. There is no more time for obscure games; that is the clear message Italians just sent from the voting booths.

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